Measuring Factors Associated with Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Rural 4th Grade Students
Rural youth are more likely to be obese and have poor diets compared to their nonrural peers; therefore, our objective was to understand factors related to healthy eating habits in this population.
We used survey data from 4th graders (N = 995) in a Midwestern state’s rural areas to explore nutrition knowledge, fruit or vegetable (F/V) attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and previous day’s consumption. We produced descriptive statistics, compared attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and consumption for fruits versus vegetables using multilevel linear regression, and used multilevel logistic regression to assess predictors of F/V consumption controlling for sociodemographic factors.
Fruit and vegetable consumption was low, with over 10% reporting no fruit consumption and over 20% reporting no vegetable consumption. Students rated fruits higher than vegetables on each variable of interest. Knowledge (OR = 1.2) and liking fruits (OR = 2.2) were associated with fruit consumption. Knowledge (OR = 1.2), liking vegetables (OR = 2.4), and vegetable preferences (OR = 1.4) were associated with vegetable consumption.
Schools should implement interventions that increase access and exposure to healthy foods and target knowledge, attitudes around liking F/V, and vegetable preferences for rural youth, such as nutrition education, school gardens, and farm-to-school programs.